Report finds Houston has room to grow as an attractive city for STEM professionals
Houston has been heralded as a great place to find a job in many instances, so it may come as some surprise that when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the Bayou City isn't primed for professionals.
The city ranked No. 33 out of the 100 largest metros in the United States in a study conducted by WalletHub. The 17 metrics corresponded to professional opportunities, STEM friendliness, or quality of life. Within those categories, Houston ranked No. 47, No. 20, and No. 54, respectively.
Some of the areas where the Houston area stood out is wage, engineering educational opportunities, and projected demand for STEM jobs in 2020. Houston had the highest annual median wage for STEM workers, which was adjusted for cost of living.
While Houston seems to be predicted to need STEM professionals, the city currently has among the worst STEM employment growth and among the highest unemployment rate for STEM professionals with a Bachelor's degree or higher.
Austin, which ranked at No. 4, was the only Texas city to rank higher than Houston, and Dallas followed close behind Houston at No. 38. Dallas actually performed similar to Houston across the categories, while Austin's scores reflected that the city provided the 8th best STEM professional opportunities in the country.
Rounding out the top five on the list was Seattle at No. 1, Boston at No. 2, Pittsburgh at No. 3, and San Francisco at No.5.
In November, Accenture's Brian Richards wrote a guest column for InnovationMap on how Houston could advance as a premier city for tech and innovation. He proffered that STEM talent is a key component the city needs — both coming into the ecosystem as well as remaining here.
"Houston already has tremendous amounts of STEM talent but doesn't produce enough talent or retain enough of the locally-grown talent," he writes. "To jumpstart, we are going to have to import it initially."
Apparently, this isn't an issue unique to Houston. According to Martin Storksdieck, director for the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning in Oregon, while the U.S. has been successfully attracting outsiders to STEM higher education roles, there's a growing need for specific STEM jobs like nurses and computer scientists.
"The US is neither creating, attracting nor retaining middle-skilled STEM professionals in any competitive fashion," Storksdieck says in the report. "[Meanwhile], about half of academic STEM graduate students in the US are foreign born."